By Claire Liston
Vice President of Creative Services
Nautilus Communications, Inc.

The year is 2003 and if you don’t have a Web site yet, you are probably flogging yourself for being “so 20th century” when we’re now three years into the new millennium. Or maybe you have a cookie-cutter “online brochure” of a Web site that desperately needs updating. Either way, you’re not alone. Everyone has been at this point — you just need to get past it before your competition does.

It’s time to invest in your online business image! Your customers, members or media contacts are all online in 2003, and it’s in your best interest to be there waiting for them. Before you start to feel overwhelmed, consider these tips for painless Web development:

Don’t create extra work. One of the greatest misconceptions about a Web site is “all that writing” you’ll have to do for it. But Web writing should be short and pithy. And chances are good that you already have publications, announcements, releases, reports, flyers, etc. that you have written. Design your site so that you can use some of the communications tools that you already have.

Keep it fresh. In addition to providing new information on the site, you should consider changing or adding new features every few months. The best way to do this is to make a wish list and turn it into a multi-phase marketing outreach plan — newsletter subscription, Q&A area, member directory, interviews, polls, etc. Make each new feature’s rollout an opportunity to touch base with your visitors, reminding them of your presence and assessing their needs.

Quality is everything. Web writing is still the neglected child in the communications family of many organizations — poorly written, not proofread, or out-of-date. Consider keeping your site small until you are sure that you can keep up with proofing and updating. It’s amazing how your image takes a nosedive when a visitor views an error-packed page on your site. Another strategy is to limit the number of frequently updated pages so you can have a larger site, but with fewer areas that need attention.

Maintain your corporate image. Don’t sacrifice your identity for a hip, technology-laden site. Make sure that the design is faithful to your corporate image, and that any interactive “toys” further your goals instead of taking attention away from them.

Make sure that the site you are building will be unique to your business, useful to your intended audience, and, above all, a successful communications tool. The best way to maximize your efforts, of course, is to hire some professional help. When choosing between a tech consultant and a communications consultant, try to determine which will help you achieve your goals. While a tech-focused firm might lean towards cutting-edge interactivity, a communications firm will concentrate on identifying your users’ needs and delivering your messages.

So “spring” into action now and make your Web site a high-impact communications tool that helps you meet your organizational objectives. You’ll be glad you did!

At Nautilus Communications, we use our customized NCx3 Creative Process™ for Web site development, a three-step process of needs assessment, site and content planning, and creative design. We offer several different development Web packages for sites of differing sizes and complexity, and we are a certified reseller of Interland, one of the top-rated Web hosting companies. Contact us today for a recommendation on how to launch or revamp your Web site.

The fine print: This article is Copyright 2003 by Nautilus Communications, Inc. It may be reproduced with attribution and a link to our Web site at www.NautilusCommunications.com

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